Depicting Lockpicking in Popular Media With Schuyler Towne - Atlas Obscura Experiences
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Depicting Lockpicking in Popular Media With Schuyler Towne

$65 per person Online Experience
3 sessions
See Dates
$65 per person
$65 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this three-part lecture series, explore portrayals of lockpicking in popular media and learn how to depict it in your own creative work.

Course Description

 There’s nothing quite like a good, high-stakes lockpicking scene. But what exactly makes it good? Surreptitious entry has snuck its way into novels, films, games, and all kinds of media—and, whether you’re a creator or consumer of these stories, this class will offer you an expert’s understanding of non-destructive entry in all its forms. We’ll pick locks together in video games, walk through a security consultation for a best-selling author, and see how screenwriters research and develop their characters to incorporate the clandestine skills of lockpicking and safecracking. This course will equip you with the tools to more accurately depict non-destructive entry techniques in your own creative work, as well as those to help you parse what’s real, what’s improbable, and what’s fun enough to be forgiven in portrayals of lockpicking you see in the media.

Syllabus at a Glance

There are 3 total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on 3 consecutive Thursday beginning May 20.

Session 1 (Thursday, 5/20, 8–9:30 PM ET): Film: Breaking into Hollywood

Session 2 (Thursday, 5/27, 8–9:30 PM ET): Literature: Writing like a safecracker

Session 3 (Thursday, 6/3, 8–9:30 PM ET): Games: Roll to pick the lock

Between Sessions

Outside of class, students will be given movies to watch and games to play. All should be accessible via popular streaming services, free and legal downloads, or Google Books (or similar). While a full exploration of the media we’ll be covering is optional, any specific scenes, mini-games, or sections of books required for class will be provided by the instructor via Google Classroom.

Course Materials

If students wish to play through the mini-games in the Museum of Lockpicking Mechanics they will need a Windows, Linux, or Macintosh computer.

Pricing Options

We currently offer tiered ticket pricing in an effort to increase accessibility for all students, regardless of economic situation. Our lecture series are available at three ticket prices, with a limited number of no-pay spots available for students who could not otherwise participate. This model is intended to support a wider range of students as well as our instructors. To learn more about our tiered sliding scale pricing model, please visit our FAQ page.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit

For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to the class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.

About Your Instructor
Schuyler Towne
Schuyler Towne

Schuyler Towne is a research scholar at the Ronin Institute studying the history and anthropology of security technologies. Before turning fully academic in his pursuits, he was a competitive lockpicker, frequently winning competitions in America and losing them abroad. He has been teaching people to pick locks for 13 years and has provided lockpicking consulting for a wide range of people, from manufacturers to mystery authors.

What Else You Should Know

This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording after each session airs. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session airs, we will email all enrolled students a recording of the session, which they can watch using a temporary password for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses, as well as transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or access needs.

Dates and Availability

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